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Monday, June 09, 2014

PIPILI GANG RAPE VICTIM, DALIT GIRL BABINA BEHERA

 

Odisha doubts if justice be bestowed upon the soul of Babina, the dead Pipili gang rape victim

 

"A teen aged gang raped girl Babina Behera of Odisha's Arjungoda village in Pipili is dead. Her family is not only in grief now but in fear of falling target to political vindictiveness. The family members have been threatened many times since Babina raised her voice against the assault made to one of her friends. Babina had to sacrifice her life for raising voice against the heinous instincts of a few men. Babina didn't get justice in life. She had to fight a lone battle during life and her body for cremation even after death. Now the question is, can the system ensure justice to the soul of Babina after her death?"

 
Dr Sasmit Patra  
   

A dead gang-raped girl Babina Behera, a weeping father Babuli Behera, a gang of scot-free rapists, a former minister soon to be inducted back, a Women’s Commission chairperson who summarily dismissed the very truth of rape, an impotent police force and a callous Government. These are the primary players of Pipili Gang rape. The poor girl in question, Babina Behera, is dead; Period. Her gang rape in Pipili became a hot selling story in the press and media for several months. Many accusations and counter-accusations were hurled in public. Her physical condition and the very nature of her trauma was dissected, bifurcated, strangulated, suffocated and so deeply infected that she died of blood infection, cardiac arrest and respiratory disease perpetuated due to the strangulation attempt by her rapists.

From hence forth Babina Behera will be consigned to being a footnote in the state’s crime records.

 

Her rapists were never brought to the law, the guardians of law- the Police were mute spectators and an IPS officer was transferred to save face. The state women’s commission chairperson, a lady, declared that rape had not taken place at all when all forensic and medical records stated otherwise. How can Odisha, my Odisha and the proud Odias continue to take such issues with a quick gulp? Did the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik not even have the least moral duty to come out of the ramparts of third floor conference room of the state secretariat and at least offer his condolences to a dead Babina?

When Babina was cremated her father was asked why he was cremating her. His reply was, “She was raped, an attempt was made to kill her and she fought for survival for six months, therefore we decided to end the chapter by cremating her.” These words are not of a father who has found a solution. These words are of a wailing, helpless father who watched his daughter’s plight being displayed in small instalments of information in peoples’ drawing rooms and “chai” shops. These words were of a father who had tried his best to save his daughter with whatever meagre funds he had. These words were of a father who had finally lost his faith in the law of the land. These words were of a father who had succumbed to the incessant bullying, bludgeoning and blaspheming of the very system which was supposed to protect his daughter. It was the weeping of a father who watched as his daughter’s plight became tasty gossip, described in detail on the nature of rape, the kind of rape and the glorification that was provided to the rapists who subsequently would never be brought to confines of law and his daughter’s honour would never be avenged.

I wonder whether this is the same Naveen Patnaik Government which worked day in and day out to rescue two foreign tourists from the Kandhamal jungles. This is the same BJD Government which spared no effort to rescue MLA Jhina Hikaka from the clutches of the Maoists. Such an effective Government! But, when it came to the honour of a poor Dalit girl why did the same effective Government turn ineffective. Why were they no series of press conferences and media briefings for Babina Behera as was the case of Paulo and Jhina. Was Paulo more worth than Babina? Was Jhina Hikaka more important than the honour of a poor girl? Might be! One being a foreigner and another being an MLA! Their lives and honour were important. Yes. But was the life and honour of Babina Behera less important?

It is understandable that the Odisha Government does not want a CBI enquiry into the mining scam since it could open a can of worms with BJD etched inside. But what was the harm in ordering a CBI enquiry when everyone including the victim’s family was pleading for it. What did Naveen Babu, BJD and Odisha Government have to hide? Some unpleasant truths which might have sullied the “clean image” of Naveen Babu probably!

What if Babina had been a girl from an affluent family with the right connections, living in leafy Bhubaneswar, having access to funds to finance her campaign for justice? Probably then the honour of Babina Behera would have been worth in the eyes of the Odisha Government. After all what is a poor, Dalit girl worth to the BJD Government? After all, the two rupee per kilo rice would ultimately win the 2014 elections. If not, another slew of populist measures would drive home the bargain. Who needs to care for a Babina to win an election? After all what is her worth to the BJD and the Odisha Government? She might have been rather an irritant for the Government which was hard pressed from various sides to ask a minister to resign, to transfer an IPS officer, to face uneasy questions on the “clean image” of Naveen Babu.

It was interesting to note that a compensation of Rs.10 lakh was trumpeted by the Odisha Government as the rightful conclusion to this messy saga. Naturally, for a poor Dalit family, ten lakhs is a big amount. But has the Government decided that by paying off the guilt of this girl’s gang rape and death it has been able to get rid of her blood on their hands? Where was the Women’s Commission, the Women’s Rights Groups, the socially independent Odia women who at the slightest instance jump on to the Odia television talk shows to tom-tom about women’s rights and empowerment. Where are the NGOs, the social organizations, human rights groups who cry shrill at the very mention of any violation of a human’s right? In Babina’s case, it was not a violation of human rights; it was a gang rape and murder of human rights. Not only for a girl but for all those self-respecting girls in Odisha who will now think a thousand times before raising their voice against injustice and hooliganism. Probably, the Odisha Government has the right prescription for taking care of the social fabric of the State.

Biju Janata Dal has failed the vision of Late Biju Patnaik. Biju Babu used say, “Maa ku samman, Gaon ku kama” (Respect to mother, work to the villages). Today the BJD Government is not able to provide respect to the mother singularly meaning the fairer sex. Neither is it able to effectively implement MNREGS for sustainable rural employment. Rather, rural Odisha is being confined to a begging bowl where rice at rupees two per kilo is the Prasad and Naveen Babu plays God.

Babina Behera will not be heard again. Her case will gather dust and some day termites will feast on it. But the question that Babina has left behind for all self-respecting Odias, “Would you in your lifetime be able to bring my rapists and killers to book? Would You?” The ball is in our court. Shall we take a step forward in whatever measure we can or shall we pull ourselves back once again, confident in our thinking that such incidents shall never occur with us, so why bother. Let’s stop and ponder for a moment if not for our sake, at least in memory of Babina.

[Dr.Sasmit Patra is a Bhubaneswar based academician and political researcher. He can be reached at sasmitpatra@gmail.com ]

 

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